Alex Thomas, of Stoic Studio, was nice enough to interview with us regarding their upcoming title The Banner Saga. After requesting $100,000 and receiving a whopping $723,886, you have a lot to think about. Stoic has already implemented dozens of new features including dozens of new characters and an expanded story as well as adding the composer of the award winning game Journey.
About The Banner Saga:
Short answer: role-playing meets turn-base strategy, wrapped into an adventure mini-series about vikings.
Travel through stunning landscapes straight out of an animated film as your party escapes what could be the end of everything. Battle painstakingly hand-animated foes in strategic, turn-based combat. Make decisions with real consequences in conversations with people you’ll actually care about.
The Banner Saga is a mature game aimed at gamers who appreciate art, story and strategy. Hope you’ll join the caravan.
Indie Game HQ: Can you tell us a little bit about Stoic Studio?
Alex: My name’s Alex Thomas, I’m the creative director at Stoic. John Watson is our technical director and Arnie Jorgensen is the art director. We started the company with just the three of us and after the success of our Kickstarter campaign, we’ve grown a couple of people since then to produce The Banner Saga, our first title. Previous to Stoic we’ve each working the games industry for over a decade and worked together at BioWare for nearly half that time.
Indie Game HQ: The game seems to feature great artwork and a well developed story. How long have you been working on it all?
Alex: I left BioWare about the same time as John in the middle of 2011, where I took some contract jobs while working on the framework of The Banner Saga. Arnie joined us in January of 2012 and we all stopped our contracts and began full-time production of the game ever since. Beside that, though, I think designing games in your spare time is something every developer thinks about. I’ve been kicking around a dozen different ideas since I was a kid playing Final Fantasy Tactics on the PS1 and sometimes those basic ideas follow you all the way to fruition.
Indie Game HQ: Were you surprised by the massive interest in the Kickstarter?
Alex: Undoubtedly. We approached Kickstarter as a way to help fund some of the production costs that we just didn’t have time to do – mostly animation and QA, and came away from it with more funding than we ever could have imagined. The concept of the game and the idea of going it alone really seemed to resonate with people.
Indie Game HQ: What are your plans for the extra money raised?
Alex: Any time you start making a game there’s a flood of great ideas and you have to scale that back to what you can afford both in terms of time and money (often these are interchangeable). The most valuable thing the Kickstarter funding let us do was bring back the best ideas that we had to drop before. We’ve added a ton of content including dozens of unique characters, we’ve been able to dramatically expand the amount of story content and re-playability in the game, and we’ve improved the quality of everything throughout. Before we were going to be doing our own foley and writing our own music and we’ve been able to get really professional studios to pitch in with us including Austin Wintory, the composer for Journey. These are all things we never could have gotten anything close to before.
Indie Game HQ: How much of the complete game can people play in the beta?
Alex: Right now, beta is specifically focused on combat, which was our biggest and most complex system. Even in our early state of beta we’ve got a ton of stuff happening in the game and a lot of subtle systems in combat that seem to be pretty unique to The Banner Saga. As we developed the single player game we thought it would be a lot of fun and help us develop the game if we just opened up this combat system for anyone to play. A small studio who has no budget for marketing has to find other ways to get people excited about the game, and making the combat free and competitive is a great way to do that.
As we keep developing systems and characters for the single player game we’ll be adding that content into Factions which I think will really help with the quality of the game overall.
Indie Game HQ: Where do you plan on retailing The Banner Saga?
Alex: We’ll be initially launching for PC and Mac on Steam and probably Desura, then start porting it to other platforms that we promised in the campaign including iOS, Linux, XBLA and PSN. We’ll also have the game available directly from our site for those who don’t care for the online services.
Indie Game HQ: Is there an estimated release for the free multiplayer?
Alex: We’re saying “Winter of this year” so far, it really all depends on how well the beta is going. So far it’s coming along better than we could have hoped, so we have high hopes to get it out by the end of the year.
Indie Game HQ: Have you begun development of The Banner Saga 2 and 3?
Alex: We definitely have the overarching story worked out, and we’re already producing event/quest content that can span between all three chapters. There are lots of really exciting parts of the story I can’t wait to get to but for now we’ve got our hands full with the first chapter.
Indie Game HQ: Thanks for your time. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?
Alex: Just to keep an eye out for the free multiplayer. As we mentioned earlier, everything we’re doing in Factions is production work towards the single player game and we’ll be constantly rolling out new content along the way!
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